by Ian Girling, chief executive, Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry 

WE mustn’t underestimate the complexities of Brexit.

Prime Minister Theresa May has made a public commitment that the UK will invoke Article 50 by the end of March 2017. Article 50 was created as part of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009 and is the methodology to extricate any member from the European Union. There is speculation that Theresa May invoke Article 50 before this once both Houses of Parliament have agreed the wording of the bill. The terms of our withdrawal have been challenged by the House of Lords and at the time of writing the bill is traveling back and forth between the Lords and the Commons until agreement is reached.

One of the key issues that has been under debate is the issue of the freedom of movement of EU nationals once we have left the EU. The referendum result back in June last year caused widespread concerns as to the rights of national from other EU countries working in the UK – and vice versa - and since then this has been an area of huge debate. It’s widely conceded that EU nationals play as essential part of many UK sectors, examples being the NHS, care and hospitality - and there are major concerns these sectors will be hugely disadvantaged without the contribution of these workers. It’s also a fact that with low unemployment figures, many businesses are already facing huge challenges in recruitment – and restricting the rights of EU nationals to work in the UK will only compound this situation.

History is being made as no other single member has exited the EU and as such, this is an untested and untried model. Invoking Article 50 triggers the beginning of an extremely complex negotiation process. Article 50 states that there are just two years to get agreement and any deal must be approved by a qualified majority (72 per cent) of the remaining states. There are a huge number of issues to consider within the negotiations including the point already raised on the rights of EU workers to work in the UK, new trade deals, foreign policy, environmental issues, defence and of course economic policy. Ministers are publicly stating this can be completed in two years; other experts are saying the withdrawal could take considerably longer. Whatever the outcome, it will be absolutely essential that the government is clear, transparent and decisive and the economy is at the heart of the negotiations and uncertainty is minimised for business.